Two years after the violent arrest of a 73-year-old woman, a newly released report reveals further misconduct from police.
In 2020, Loveland, Colorado police violently arrested Karen Garner—resulting in a broken arm and dislocated shoulder. While two officers were convicted of charges related to the incident, the city has only now released a 2021 report detailing further officer misconduct.
On June 26, 2020, Karen Garner was thrown to the ground and violently arrested by Loveland Police Officer Austin Hopp after she allegedly shoplifted $14 of soda and laundry detergent from a local Walmart. According to a federal lawsuit, Garner who was 73 and suffered from Dementia and sensory aphasia—a condition that can make speaking and communication difficult—did not receive medical care for six hours after sustaining injuries that included a broken arm and dislocated shoulder.
Garner filed a lawsuit against the city in April 2021, with the city agreeing to a settlement five months later, awarding Garner $3 million in damages. Further, two officers have been convicted of charges related to the event—with Hopp currently serving a five-year sentence for assault.
However, a new independent report released to the public on November 4th reveals the depth of misconduct during Garner's arrest. In particular, the report highlights the misconduct of Phillip Metzler—the third officer present at the scene of Garner's arrest (the other two officers were later convicted on criminal charges related to the incident). Metzler resigned in 2021, shortly after the report was confidentially released to the City of Loveland.
The most severe revelations against Metzler relate to his handling of a bystander complaint about Hopp's use of force at the scene of the incident. "Metzler did not take the complaint or document the concern from the citizen as directed by LPD policy," the report noted. Further, "Metzler's demeanor with [the bystander] was disrespectful and discourteous. Metzler failed to hear out [the bystander] and talked over him multiple times."
According to the report, "Metzler changed the case number on his [body camera] footage, which recorded the citizen who complained about the arrest, to an unrelated incident number. This removed the footage from the Garner case file available to LPD and the District Attorney. In addition, by reclassifying the footage to an 'incident' rather than a case, Metzler changed the retention lifespan of the footage from 10 years to one year."
Not only did police display a disturbing level of force when arresting an elderly woman for petty theft, but they also ignored and attempted to bury a bystander's complaints about their behavior. While one officer now sits behind bars for his actions against Karen Garner and another faces three years of probation, Metzler appears to have evaded responsibility for his role.
"First and foremost, the local police department as well as the city of Loveland organization are sorry for what happened to Karen Garner," City Manager Stephen Adams, said during a press conference. "This report determined that involved officers that day behaved in a manner not befitting the Loveland Police Department."
However, Garner's family is not satisfied that this new report spells the end of actions against those involved in Garner's arrest. "While we appreciate the time and attention put into the report, we felt that [Assistant] Chief Butler, who signed off on the arrest, should be fired," Shannon Steward, Garner's daughter-in-law told local news.